Jump in the car and explore these lesser-known lookouts and trails along the Great Ocean Road

Jump in the car and explore these lesser-known lookouts and trails along the Great Ocean Road

Hailed one of the bucket list places to visit in the region and sprawling out for 243km around Victoria, the Great Ocean Road is one of nature’s most marvellous creations and a place you have to set out to visit at least once in your life, and included in that is the famed Twelve Apostles. Attracting over 1.2 million visitors annually, the eight remaining rock formations are a must-see sight along the Great Ocean Road and are best viewed at dawn or dusk when the coastline is bathed in pastel light.

While incredibly popular, and stunning of course, it’s not the only stop you can make, especially for those looking to soak up the beauty of Australia and get to grips with its wild and wonderful landscape. We’ve rounded up a few of our favourite lesser known lookouts and trails that you should definitely put on your weekend to-do list.

Gibson Steps

Prepare to be dwarfed by the magnitude of the 70-metre high vertical cliffs and offshore stacks. The sheer scale of natural sculpting evident at this site is humbling. In local vernacular, Gog and Magog are the names given to the two giant limestone stacks that may be viewed from both the viewing platform and (tide and sea permitting) from beach level. The steps were carved into the cliff by local settler Hugh Gibson who worked on traditional access used by the original Kirrae Whurrong inhabitants.

To get here, simply park your car at the Gibson Steps car park where it is just a 50m return to lookout 86 steps and ramped walkway to beach (5 mins). Another option is to park at the 12 Apostles and walk to Gibson Steps via a 1.1km section of the Great Ocean Walk. The walk departs from the back of the kiosk at the 12 Apostles and safely underpasses the Great Ocean Road near the Gibson Steps viewing platform and beach access. Allow yourself about an hour for this, or more if you intend hanging out on the beach.

You can find the exact location here.

The Grotto

Among all the rock formations along the Great Ocean Road, the Grotto is perhaps the most enchanting. It it not quite a blowhole, not quite an arch, and not quite a cave – but it’s a bit of everything and offers a peaceful place to enjoy the sea views and soak in the wonderful things nature is capable of.

Located in Peterborough and standing about halfway up the cliff from the sea level, the geological formation can be reached via a decked staircase that leads down from the viewing platform at the top. You can either view the wonder from above, or head down and explore it at eye-level. Inside, you’ll see that the Grotto is filled with smooth boulders and serene rock pools that have been carved out of the limestone.

For the best view, look into the Grotto from the lower viewing platform, where you can see the horizon, the pools, and the jutting rock formations in one go. FYI – The barrier that has been built at the viewing area at the Grotto is the area that is considered safe.

You won’t want to forget the camera with this stop.

You can find its exact location here.

Loch Ard Gorge

Offshore stacks, blowholes and the indescribable beauty of formations like the Razorback and Island arch make this precinct the one with the lot and definitely worth putting on your bucket list. It’s named after the famous 1878 shipwreck on nearby Mutton Bird Island, where fifty-two people were lost from the Loch Ard and only two teenage survivors were fortunate enough to be washed into the only safe gorge on the coast. Other people on the ship were washed into adjacent gorges and perished. The Gorge is unusual for this section of coast, in that it has a relatively calm interior. It has a low energy beach and moderate sloping dune that makes the beach accessible with caution in most tide and ocean conditions, and is definitely worth exploring.

To witness the magic, there are a few different walks to choose from, ranging between 200m – 3km.

The Geology Walk is a level crushed rock and bitumen surface 900m return trail that includes lookouts at The Razorback and Island Arch; Loch Ard Wreck Lookout is a 600m return of undulating bitumen access from the main car park to the headland lookout; and Wreck of the Loch Ard is a 1.4km slight inclines on bitumen and crushed rock, narrow in places near the cemetery. This trail connects through to the south of the cemetery and on towards Muttonbird Island lookout.

Thunder Cave is a 1.1km sealed path that forms part of the 3.2km living on the edge trail; Living on the Edge is a 3.2 km with inclines on bitumen and crushed rock; and Mutton Bird Island Lookout is 100m level on crushed rock to the upper deck of the viewing platform where there are steps down to the lower viewing platform.

It is almost impossible to walk the trails and not be moved by the powers of nature that have shaped and the shipwreck history that defines the area. There are also three separate Loch Ard Gorge car parks so make sure you remember which one you’ve parked at.

You can find its exact location here.

The Arch

Naturally sculptured by extreme tides and winds The Arch stands at eight metres high and is not far from Port Campbell, the 12 Apostles and the Bay of Islands, located just 6km west of Port Campbell. An astounding rock formation drilled out of limestone rock by wave action from the Great Southern Ocean, the Arch is at its best during rough seas when the waves crash in and around it.

We would recommend saving this one for the afternoon when the formations to the east are bathed in a warm golden light. The walkway descending down to the platform offers a beautiful yet unusual perspective back towards the 12 Apostles, standing boldly against the cliff line they were carved from. It’s about a 320m return from the car park and should only take about 20 minutes.

You can find its location here.

London Bridge

Yes, we’re still talking about Victoria.

Before 1990, London Bridge was exactly that – a bridge that connected the arch of land to the mainland. It got its name from its likeness to its namesake, before being later known as the London Arch, due to its massive structure collapse in 1990 with part of the bridge collapsing into the ocean, leaving behind a chunk of land isolated in the ocean.

The collapse of the London Bridge highlights the everchanging structure of this coast. With the rocky sandstone cliff shoreline slowly crumbling and shifting in structure due to the continuous erosion of weather and sea, our region is consistently being transformed into a new sight every century or so – making it all the more special to go see these stunning attractions while you can.

If you’re keen to make the trip, the London Bridge has upper western and lower eastern viewing platforms to take in the sweeping vistas, and sometimes you’ll even be able to see little penguins returning to shore. Located 7km west of Port Campbell, it’s only a 150m return for the upper platform and 300m return lower platform.

PS. It goes without saying that sunrises and sunsets provide the perfect lighting for viewing natural wonders so, for the ultimate London Bridge experience, head to the site just as the sun is beginning to rise or set.

You can find its location here.

Bay of Martyrs Trail

Located in Peterborough, the Bay of Martyrs forms a part of the Bay of Islands Coastal Park, a 32 kilometre stretch of coastal reserve in Victoria along the Great Ocean Road.

By far one of the most beautiful spots along the Great Ocean Road, this 4km trail is perfect when you’re ready to get out and explore. It begins at the Peterborough Golf Course and follows the path to Halladale Point where the Falls of Halladale was wrecked all those years ago. You’ll eventually find yourself in the Bay of Martyrs carpark where from here on you have access to amazing coves and beaches. The trail will take you around 2 hours to complete -that’s if you can resist from stopping to continuously taking snaps of the stunning landscape!

You can find its location here.

Princetown Boardwalk

Princetown is a favourite of ours along the Great Ocean Road, usually home to one of our favourite boutique music gatherings, Loch Hart Music Festival. There is another reason why we love stopping here, and that’s for the Princetown Wetlands Boardwalk.

This 600-meter-long wooden walk provides an abundance of birds and wild kangaroos to get up close and personal with, and is suitable for a leisurely stroll, taking about half an hour to walk.

It’s exceptionally beautiful here and just beyond the sand dunes is a beach you will most probably have to yourself. There’s even a stunning fishing platform near a bridge over the Gellibrand River which makes for a stunning photo opp.

You can find its location here.

Port Campbell Discovery Walk

If you’re looking for something chilled out but no less beautiful, this should be near the top of your list.

This gentle hike will take you to Two Mile Bay, allowing you to experience the iconic clifftops that signify the Great Ocean Road, and bring you face to face with the native wildlife hiding out among the coastal heath at dusk. The best part of the 3.8 return walk however is the unforgettable panoramas back to Port Campbell, Sentinel Rock and the Twelve Apostles. It should only take about an hours and a half to complete the track.

You can find the location here.

Bay of Islands

Stretching out across 32 kilometres along the coast of Victoria between Peterborough and Warrnambool, the Bay of Islands offers astounding ocean views and a collection of fascinating sheer cliffs and unusual rock stacks. While the beaches are accessible at certain points along this stretch of coastline, the most popular thing to do is admire the stunning sea views.

You can do this via two different viewing areas and get that perfect picture of the sun setting over the vast Southern Ocean and the towering limestone stacks of the Bay of Islands. The first one can be found around 120m from the designated car park and is accessed via a secondary path where you’ll find a timber deck and amazing views out to sea. The second viewing area, which is also the most popular, can be found about 140m from the car park and is accessed via the main path. Again, you’ll be greeted by a timber deck which is slightly larger than the first and offers even more uninterrupted views.

The pale limestone of this section of coast reflects a different quality of light and offers superior photographic opportunity in overcast conditions. Highly underrated!

You can pinpoint the location here.